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the fallout
Media Big Loser in 2016 Campaign

No participant in the 2016 presidential election fares well in the Pew Research Center’s post-election voter survey: the candidates, the parties, and the electorate itself all receive historically poor marks from respondents. But the most despised institution of them all is the news media, which scored lower than ever before:

Overall, 38% of voters give the press a failing grade – including 60% of Trump supporters. Voters who back Republican candidates have long been highly critical of the press, but this marks the first time a majority of any presidential candidate’s supporters has “failed” the press for its campaign conduct. In 2008, 44% of McCain voters gave the press a grade of F, as did 45% of Romney voters four years ago.

Clinton supporters grade the press much more positively. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) give the press an A or B, 26% grade it at C, 20% at D and just 15% give it a failing grade. Still, fewer Clinton supporters give the press an A or B when compared with Obama supporters in 2008 (53% A or B) and 2012 (48%).

The press was in the crosshairs of both campaigns throughout this election, with Republicans arguing that the mainstream media was systematically biased against their candidate, and Democrats insisting that the media was “normalizing” Trump, and giving too much play to Hillary Clinton’s various email and Foundation-related controversies. While voters on both sides were unusually critical of the way the press conducted itself, the anger is especially intense among Republicans, huge majorities of whom say that the media was “too tough” on Trump and “too easy” on Hillary Clinton.

Many post-election analyses have highlighted the role of right-wing media, including “fake news” propaganda sites, in allegedly influencing the election outcome. But as we noted on Friday, this phenomenon was only made possible by the broad-based decline in trust in mainstream outlets. Some of this decline probably has to do with technology and social media; some has to do with political polarization and the rising social disconnect between educated professionals, including journalists, and working class voters on both sides.

Overall, this is an ominous trend for democracy. A responsible press is vital to protecting free society and holding public officials accountable. The more the media torches its credibility with the public, the more it will be tuned out, and the less effectively it will be able to do its job.

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  • rheddles

    A free press is necessary. A responsible press, not so much as the first 175 years of our history demonstrate. We did not have a “responsible” press until the WWII vets came home and there was a national political consensus and media concentration previously unseen. As that generation and the media concentration which accompanied it passed the the underlying irresponsibility of the press was revealed, and the historical norm returned. May a thousand flowers bloom.

  • jsdozcn9

    If the media did a good job then disapproval would be a problem. Given the poor quality of their product, disapproval is a good thing. People are ignoring the media as they make themselves more and more irrelevant. This is good for the country.

  • Beauceron

    What can you possibly say about our MSM media when in retrospect an actual, dyed-in-the-wool nutter like Alex Jones of InfoWars turns out to have read the national mood and the presidential election politics better than the NY Times and the WaPo?
    And the answer from the MSM, instead of some honest self examination, seems to be to conjure up a war against “fake news.” Really, considering their swing from non-stop venomous vitriol during the Bush years, to singing hosannas during the 8 year rule of Obama, only to swing back to full eye-rolling, spittle-flecked ranting when Trump gets elected, their protestations about the falsity of our news rings hollow to most people.

    Most Americans see the majority of our press as political operatives of the Left. And they are right. That is exactly what they have become. WikiLeaks, if nothing else, proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt.

    Honestly, if the MSM tells me the sky is blue, I am going to have to double check it.

  • Disappeared4x

    By May2016, ‘election’ ledes from MSM used SAME talking point words, same as DNC talking points.
    Was that not proof of systemic bias?
    The British MSM, even The Guardian, was much more like news than propaganda..

    • Andrew Allison

      The BBC was, and remains, disgracefully biased.

      • Disappeared4x

        agree on the BBC bias, was referring to print news. faint praise: BBC not as bad as PBS or NPR.

    • f1b0nacc1

      The Guardian has been reasonably good (not perfect, but far, far better than what we see elsewhere) in limiting their overt bias to the pages of CIF. Their non-opinion pieces are typically excellent….it is one of my must-reads each day.

      • Disappeared4x

        ditto now that the TelegraphUK put up a pay wall! Kushner’s Observer is better and better.
        Confess I do miss a daily print newspaper.

    • Tom Scharf

      I did find it odd that The Guardian covered this election better than anyone, and it is the liberal newspaper over there. Their environmental section is a bit out in the weeds, but overall they did a good job.

  • Frank Natoli

    Most Conservatives that I know long ago stopped paying attention to MSM and instead got their news from the British papers or from Internet magazine sites, such as American Interest, which has a lot of good information, although apparently most of its writers pretty consistently coming to the wrong conclusions.

  • FriendlyGoat

    What we call the “main-stream” media is actually the for-profit media. While this has always been the case with the many, many newspapers of old, the present situation is that people who even want hard news have tons of choices where to get it. As more and more of them peel off to the known slants they want to hear or read, you find CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN more in the competitive entertainment business than anything else. The PBS NewsHour is the best left and we can be pretty sure that we will soon be hearing how the nation “can’t afford” to have it because of the federal deficit.

  • Fat_Man

    Fake news is what the NYTimes and the WaPo have been publishing for years.

  • Tom Scharf

    This cycle was appallingly bad for the media. It was surprising they are unable to see it for themselves. The inflection point for myself was when there was a two week period where almost every outlet decided in unison that turning on Trump supporters was ethical (racist, misogynist, sexist, etc.). Too much group think. They should probably stop reading other newspapers and stay off of social media to prevent runway group bias.

    I don’t think the doctor can diagnose himself here. Change is needed, and it needs to come from within.

    They earned their F.

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